PHUKET TOURISM TAKES ANOTHER BEATING AS THAI MAFIA FORCES OUT FOREIGN BUSINESSES – On what should be an idyllic holiday island; Phuket has quickly turned into a very unwelcoming place with increasing hostilities against foreign businesses.
The issues are many and at times complex; however these can be broken down into clearer picture of the issues. It really comes down to two things; money and control.
It is no secret that the Tuk Tuk and Taxis are run and protected by government officials. It is also no secret that fares are some 10 to 20 times higher on Phuket compared to Bangkok. Finally it is no secret that anyone trying to engage in a business to transport tourists, whether it is from a foreign entity or a public bus service run by the government, is going to face intimidation and often violence from the Tuk Tuk and Taxi Mafia.
For the last few months a storm has been brewing. The disquiet has been caused by a number of Russian operated businesses who have setup rival services, often providing a much safer and cheaper alternative. The response from the Thais has been as everyone expected, set up road blocks and force the authorities to take action. A number of very discriminatory banners have also been put up outside the offices of the Russian operated businesses, which tells them to get out and that Russians are not welcome in Thailand.
Over the last 5 years, contrary to all the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) hype on how buoyant and how well the tourist industry is growing, figures have been declining rapidly. This continued decline is directly attributed to the ever growing problem of tourist being scammed by Tuk Tuks, Taxi, Jet Ski and the list goes on. Often, tourists that realise they have been ripped off and confront the Thais, this leads to violence which is always mob handed – that it a Thai will not fight you alone, they run in packs like dogs. There have been, over the last few years, literally hundreds of cases of tourists being attacked by Tuk Tuk and Taxi drivers, often resulting in hospitalisation and without any action taken against the Thai mob by the police. Phuket, like the whole of Thailand, is a lawless society where anything came be obtained or gotten away with providing you have enough money; and that includes murder.
One Russian business in Phuket has announced that he is closing his business due to the threats of violence and the amount of intimidation his tour customers are receiving. Once again it appears that the Thai Tuk Tuk and Taxi Mafia, run by the Major and his son, have achieved their goal and removed any competition that is likely to affect their ability to continuously rip off unsuspecting foreign tourists.
The truth is, and this is something that a Thai is simply unable to comprehend, is that this doesn’t just remove the competition, it sends a clear message to foreign tourist to find somewhere else for a vacation and this is in fact what is happening. Tourists simply want to enjoy a holiday and relax for a few weeks. What they don’t want is to get into the back of a taxi only to find a minute later that the car has been stopped, they are dragged out and threatened with violence while the other mob member beat the driver half to death; which was an occurrence not so long ago and continues to occur.
The message the Thais are sending to the foreign tourist is loud and clear – come to Thailand, we’ll rip you off, we’ll mob beat you, we’ll mug you, we’ll rape you and if we like, without impunity, we’ll murder you.
Thank you Thailand for making your tourist policies crystal clear and I am sure your goal of irreversibly destroying your tourist industry is something you will no doubt be very happy with.